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News: Finger joint replacement surgery provides relief from pain

The first finger joint replacement surgery in McHenry County was recently performed at Centegra Health System as a result of an approved clinical trial of a special synthetic implant. This revolutionary surgery aids patients suffering from painful arthritis. Dr. Kelly Holtkamp, an independent orthopaedic surgeon on staff at Centegra Health System, is one of the few hand surgeons in McHenry County trained to perform this state-of-the-art finger joint replacement surgery. Holtkamp said the surgery helps people who live with daily pain in their hands due to arthritis or injury.

”I’ve never been so thrilled with surgery in my life,”  said Diane Borchert, age 65 of Crystal Lake who had the specialized surgery on her left thumb in September and on her ring finger in January at Centegra Hospital – McHenry. She plans to have her right hand worked on in the fall.”My thumb was in the shape of an ‘S’ and the rest of my fingers are gnarled,”  she said.

Borchert’s arthritis began in 1991 and grew progressively worse over the years.”I have trouble doing the simple everyday things like buttoning a shirt, opening a door, writing a note and stuffing an envelope,”  said Borchert. “I try to stay active but the pain makes me fatigued and it takes twice as long to do things.” During a finger joint replacement surgery, Holtkamp removes a patient’s diseased joint and replaces it with a prosthetic joint made of a polyethylene component and titanium. After surgery, patients immediately begin therapy to improve their range of motion and after about four weeks of healing patients begin strengthening exercises.

”There is no one too old for this surgery,”  Holtkamp said. “If a person is active and has pain with his or her daily activities, this is a perfect procedure.” Borchert said she is going to physical therapy three times a week. She plans to have surgery on the rest of her left hand in March and then will work on her right hand in the fall.”I am going to take it one finger at a time,”  she said.

As a former physical therapist, Holtkamp said she knows a team approach is extremely important to the success of hand surgeries. She works closely with occupational therapists to ensure her patients receive intensive rehabilitation so their new finger joints work as well as possible.”Excellent therapy is imperative when it comes to hand surgery,”  Holtkamp said. “Patients have to be dedicated to their exercises to make the most out of their new joints.” Holtkamp received her training in finger joint replacement while she completed a fellowship in hand surgery at the Mayo Medical School College of Medicine. She studied under Dr. William Cooney, a pioneer in finger joint replacement surgery who also designed the joint implant that Holtkamp uses. She said it was a great opportunity to work with Cooney as he fine-tuned the surgery at the Mayo Clinic.”I saw the process we utilized to tweak the instruments we were using to cut bones,”  Holtkamp said. “I was in the right place at the right time.” 

Today, Holtkamp uses her advanced training to care for patients in the greater McHenry County area. A Crystal Lake native, she says it feels good to help people in the community enjoy their daily activities again.”People think they have to go into the city for these things, but it is right here,”  said Borchert. “I did my homework. Dr. Holtkamp is board-certified and that means a lot. She brings the art and science of medicine together. What I loved about her immediately was her passion and perfection, her persistence to do things right.” Borchert added, “When I asked her about getting a second opinion, she said she would have it no other way. I knew right then that I had found the right doctor, right here close to home.”

”People are so grateful after this surgery,”  Holtkamp said. “There are men in their 50s who are suffering from excruciating old football injuries who can painlessly use a keyboard after finger joint replacement. There is so much we can do for arthritis.” Holtkamp said a person whose job involves heavy labor may not be a candidate because of possible damage to the replaced joint, but most other adults benefit from this surgery.”People think they just have to live with the pain, but there is a lot we can do to help people feel more comfortable during their activities of daily living,”  Holtkamp said. “This surgery, combined with great therapy afterward, makes a huge difference in a patient’s life.”

Centegra Health System is committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the residents of greater McHenry County and to making services available in multiple and convenient locations, including hospitals in McHenry and Woodstock, Immediate and Primary Care centers, Centegra Sage Cancer Center, Health Bridge Fitness Centers and more. As the region’s leading healthcare provider, Centegra Health System continues to bring the latest treatments and technology, along with the skills of nearly 4,000 medical professionals, to meet the needs of the growing McHenry County community.

For more information on Centegra Health System visit, search Centegra on Facebook or call 877-CENTEGRA (877-236-8347).